Liberalism with Excellence

ISBN : 9780198777960

Matthew H. Kramer
448 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
May 2017
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During the past several decades, political philosophers have frequently clashed with one another over the question whether governments are morally required to remain neutral among reasonable conceptions of excellence and human flourishing. Whereas the numerous followers of John Rawls (and kindred philosophers such as Ronald Dworkin) have maintained that a requirement of neutrality is indeed incumbent on every system of governance, other philosophers - often designated as 'perfectionists' - have argued against the existence of such a requirement. Liberalism with Excellence enters these debates not by plighting itself unequivocally to one side or the other, but instead by reconceiving each of the sides and thus by redirecting the debates that have occurred between them. On the one hand, the book rejects the requirement of neutrality by contending that certain subsidies for the promotion of excellence in sundry areas of human endeavour can be proper and vital uses of resources by governments. Advocating such departures from the constraint of neutrality, the book presents a version of liberalism that can rightly be classified as 'perfectionist'. On the other hand, the species of perfectionism espoused in Liberalism with Excellence diverges markedly from the theories that have usually been so classified. Indeed, much of the book assails various aspects of those theories. What is more, the aspirational perfectionism elaborated in the closing chapters of the volume is reconcilable in most key respects with a suitably amplified version of Rawlsianism. Hence, by reconceiving both the perfectionist side and the neutralist side of the prevailing disputation, Liberalism with Excellence combines and transforms their respective insights.


Part I: Introduction
1 Toward the Redirection of a Longstanding Controversy

Part II: Liberal Neutralism
2 One Cheer for Edificatory Perfectionism: An Arm's-Length Defense of Edificatory Perfectionism against Some Rawlsian Objections
3 The Illusion of Neutrality: Abortion and the Foundations of Justice
4 Too Much from Too Little: A Critique of Gerald Gaus's Libertarian Neutralism

Part III: Edificatory Perfectionism
5 Edificatory Perfectionism and the Quality of Freedom
6 The Quidnunc Mentality of Edificatory Perfectionism

Part IV: Aspirational Perfectionism
7 Self-Respect in Rawls's Liberalism
8 Perfectionism in the Service of Justice
9 The Implementation and Import of Aspirational Perfectionism

About the author: 

Matthew H. Kramer is Professor of Legal and Political Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He is Director of the Cambridge Forum for Legal and Political Philosophy, and has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 2014. He is the author of 14 previous books and the co-editor of 4 additional books. Eight of his previous books have been published with the OUP, the most recent being Torture and Moral Integrity (2014).

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